Declan McKenna • Liar • High Quality Popular Music • Release Date: 5.20.16
There are still new, intriguing artists out there, as difficult as they may be to find. While conformity and trendiness aren’t always bad things (though they are most of the time), they are the cause of the death of the innovative spirit. Thankfully, British alternative musician Declan McKenna is a nonconformist – very rare given his 17 years on this earth – and proves to be an incredibly gifted singer/songwriter. In other words, his four-track EP Liar is a worthwhile, rewarding listen from start to finish.
The socially conscious “Brazil” sets the tone for Liar. Even given its meaningful message, “Brazil” is incredibly catchy, particularly the chorus: “I heard he lives down a river somewhere / with six cars and a grizzly bear / he’s got eyes, but he can’t see / well, he talks like an angel but he looks like me.” Throughout “Brazil,” McKenna makes a number of religious references, whether it’s “I’m faithless now / though we win every time and I don’t know how” or “Oh Lord! What have I become? / I’m the face of God I’m my father’s son.” The best way to describe “Brazil” is clever.
Religion takes on a larger role on “Bethlehem,” evidenced by the title and the lyrical references. Much like the embedded link, McKenna’s views of religion are unfavorable. “Because I’m in Bethlehem / I got to see in heaven,” he sings on the chorus, continuing, “And though I’m heaven sent / I can do as I want and you don’t have the right to choose.”
With “Brazil” being the catchiest song off of Liar, “Paracetamol” might be the best, most moving song. Situational, there are plenty of relevant topics covered over the song’s course. McKenna references suicide early on, characterizing “a boy, fifteen with a gun in his hand / and the people with no audience say should be hanged” and later, “a girl, fifteen, with her head in a noose / because she’s damned to live, well she’s damned to choose.”
The significance of the girl’s reference leads to the topic of love, with love taking on a number of meanings contextually, whether it’s acceptance, embracement, or various relationships. “Paracetamol” was influenced by the death of Leelah Alcorn (an Ohio transgender teen whose story affected the world) and is aimed at building respect and acceptance of the LGBT community. So why is it called “Paracetamol?” Likely because Paracetamol is a pain reliever and McKenna aims to ease the pain or at least show support for a community where such support can be difficult to muster.
“Howl” has a tough act to follow. “Howl” doesn’t best the meaningful “Paracetamol,” but finds McKenna delivering a ‘gives no flips’ message: “I don’t care for attention that much / I just put my life over theirs, my life over theirs.” Essentially, Declan McKenna does something that more people should do – be unafraid to “Howl” and be their own person.
All in all, Declan McKenna delivers a home run on Liar EP. Most kids his age wouldn’t dare tackle the topics he covers on Liar, but it’s evident from the start that McKenna isn’t your everyday 17-year old. All four songs are captivating, with “Brazil” and “Paracetamol” representing the crème de la crème. McKenna definitely gets the singer/songwriter thing.
Favorites: “Brazil” and “Paracetamol”